The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life by Bradley G. Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the ‘vibe’ of the modern world, my impression is that the life of the mind is most commonly associated with the secular and dissociated from the Christian church. Witness: the (strange!) assumed opposition between science and Christianity; the absence of theologians from the standard panel of folks called to speak on big issues; arguments against God do not need to be arguments for mockery suffices.
Christians have not always been helpful, either. I’ve received earnest advice saying, ‘Oh, don’t go there – they will only fill your head with knowledge.’ (Assumed: that’s a bad thing.)
What’s more, in the academy generally there’s growing despair at the possibility of knowledge. Postmodernism (so-called) and the linguistic turn succeed in undermining confidence in any knowledge.
In this book, Green argues against any marginalisation of Christianity regarding the life of the mind. Far from it – Christian theology, he says, is the only hope. Green has two arguments.
1. The Christian vision of God, man, and the world provides the necessary precondition for the recovery of any meaningful intellectual life.
2. The Christian vision of God, man, and the world offers a particular, unique understanding of what the intellectual life might look like.
Green covers the importance of creation and history (we may be confident that there is something to know); of the future (eschatology gives purpose to all things, including thought); of words that really do refer to things (our speech is not a mere game); of knowledge as love (knowledge is never neutral, but always moral).
In each of these areas, he builds important biblical foundations while also identifying the malaise of modern thought. The arguments are accessible, aimed for the (serious) general reader. And I think they succeed! In short, this is a coherent appeal for Christian theology to lead to Christian thought – in many spheres of thought.
There are a couple of things I would like to have seen. Perhaps they were precluded by the intended length of the work.
Firstly, what response does Green think should come from academics who don’t share Christian convictions? Doe he think they can be renewed by learning theology? Does he suggest that current dead-ends in thought will benefit from considered application of historical theology? Or does he think that conversion is the most important need for their academic development?
This first matter is, I believe, directly relevant to the purpose of Green’s book. He’s proposing a way to rescue modern academia. A brief sketch of the map ahead would be most informative.
Secondly – and this is definitely some way from Green’s book – I wondered how this might work in a non-Western context. Of course, an answer would need knowledge of the intellectual tradition in non-Western settings – a huge area to cover (a different study and a different book). But, because the gospel claims all the world and all cultures, I did wonder!
This is a good book, and recommended.
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